DJ Rekha v James F**king Friedman, Gov Island NYC, 08/25/07

BHANGRA V REGGAE INNA SOUNDCLASH was the billing.

Okay, the posters for this show (part of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s “In the Pocket” summer series on Gov Island, an abandoned Coast Guard island off Wall Street in NYC) got me drooling.

I visualized a bit of summer lawn postcolonial ananda –
DJ Rekha’s Basement Bhangra selections v James F$%&!-ing Friedlander mining 40 years of Trojan Records’ ska, reggae, and dub vaults.

Not quite so.

A light crowd turned out to hear selector J. Friedlander and the Subatomic sound system deliver a surprisingly weak 1 hr opening set, including a particularly painful beat-juggling passage from the classic “Police and Thieves” into one of Trojan’s thousands of obscure echoey dubs. Ouch.

With lackluster rhymes on the mic, DJ Treasure Don failed to move the crowd. By the end, Mr. Treasure was exhorting the crowd to check him out on myspace. Overheard:

“He better stay on myspace.”

“Uh huh. I hear what you’re saying.”

“Cuz he ain’t got much of a future out here.”

“Uh huh.”

Admission: I’m biased. DJ Rekha’s one of my all-time favorite DJs in NYC.


She’s been reviewed before, when she played Summerstage in 2006. Fader lauds her melding of hip-hop and bhangra. her S.O.B. parties are legendary. She didn’t quite scale the heights on Gov Island, but during her 1 hr set (making do without a DJ (MC) or a singer, but with the admirable James Swarmi on the dhol) she sure made the growing crowd got off their ass and MOVED. Dropping a bit of the James Bond theme for the laughs, some of M.I.A.’s infectious “Galang” for the energy, and some classic bhangra for bounce, she got a coupla dancers up on stage, including yet another contestant for the Tony Manero of Bollywood crown.

Tho’ even Rekha rolled her eyes at some of his moves,

it all worked the crowd to a booty-shaking, head-wiggling hand-waving frenzy.

The finale was a 1/2 hour friendly soundclash – for which J. Friedlander and Subatomic suddenly pulled out some serious skills, and DJ Rekha pulled out some new stuff from her upcoming “Basement Bhangra,” featuring – was pretty silly by the standards of the real thing, but way more fun that the early afternoon had promised.

Right in the middle of a real exchange, just as DJ Rekha had pulled out the killer “Jogi” beat to play with, the Gov Island folks pulled the plug. As in turned off the music and said “Go Home”

So go home we did. But not before checking out the rest of Gov Island. Including the inevitable public art projects. Which, frankly, are never safe when I’m around.

Ride a horse, ride a subway, take a cab, but do not miss the next DJ Rekha party – or her new record. Hope you heard ’bout it here first.

The National @ South Street Seaport, NYC, 8/17/07

ndie pop. Very tasty. Free at the South Street Seaport on Fridays this summer.

The National’s Boxer is an album one’s gotta like. Or at least enjoy. Or not hate. Craftsmanship, good melodies, heartfelt lyrics, strong guitars: I can’t quite be wild about them, but I wasn’t gonna miss a chance to see them, esp for free, esp after they sold out the Bowery Ballroom in NYC for five nights in a row.

And they delivered an excellent show; more than I expected.

They did mainly stuff from Boxer

Some stuff from Alligator

I could not tell if they did this one or not, but if so, I somehow missed hearing this excellent lyric from “Karen”:
“It’s a common fetish for a doting man
to ballerina on the coffee table cock in hand”

damn.

and my personal NYC sidelight.

Here is the lovely new york-based DJ known as Delphine Blue, who I’ve heard around town for years – literally, since the days she spun at Danceteria and the Ritz.

Then at WBAI and WFUV. And lately at the late lamented ps1.org internet station. And now on my local fave eastvillageradio.com, formerly pimped on this blog.

Anyway, I finally got to meet her and chat and found out we know some peeps in common. NY is a village after all. However, South Street Seaport is an entirely foreign thing that has been grafted onto NYC like one of those globular unnaturally-colored Frankenstein cactus things. It has no New York in it.

Bleh. However, Friday, August 31, the very hot Battles is playing there. So I know where I’ll be. . . .

Daft Punk Lights Up Keyspan Park, Coney Island, New York, 08/09/07

okay, that’s a ref to the LCD Soundsystem song of same name. They weren’t actually at my apt.

But Daft Punk DID finally play NYC with their stupendous stage and light show. it is like

The French, who gave us Guy DeBord and Society of the Spectacle and all that good shit — Damn, do they like their SPECTACLES.

Daft Punk, the ne plus ultra French electro house disco duo puts on mind-blowing shows. I’d been waiting for this one for MONTHS.

Basically, they wear spaceman/robot costumes

and sit in the middle of a giant light-up pyramid

in front of a whole phalanx of lights, between two huge grids of struts, flanked by two giant-ass video screens.

The pyramid turns blue

and green

and red

While the crowd freaks out and dances. Sound silly? Yeah. Is it fun? Fuck yeah. DP tend their synths and digital turntables like benevolent insects, controlling the pulse of the crowd as if they they were so many happy ants, or bees, or a bunch of really, really happy people throwing glow sticks at the stage like crazy.

Starting off with “Technologic” with its invocations to Buy It, Touch It, Hit It, etc. – w/ a little Busta Rhymes sampled in there, they segued into the monster dancefloor anthem “Around the World” from their first album, HOMEWORK. to a “Harder Faster Stronger,” to some kind of massive “One More Time” edit (later I heard that’s the Aerodynamic edit) that just pretty much blew up Keyspan Park.

And onto “Da Funk,” and “Human After All,” with actual photo images of the insides of people, faces, eyes, etc.. Sampling themselves like mad thruout, they mashed it up into into the encore, in which their robo/insect suits lit up in outline,

and the crowd went apeshit, basically.

There is almost NO WAY to appreciate the whole effect of Daft Punk’s kind of music on the tiny circuit between the two plugs of your iPod. Maybe one head is too small. A stadium full of pulsing, breathing bodies synched to a big-ass eye-candy show and ear-candy beat extravaganza is the only way it makes sense.

Hey, it made sense to me.

Antibalas, Ogans, @ Governors Island, New York, 08/04/07

Is this some bucolic NYC campus?

What leafy grove of academe?

NO! It’s Governor’s Island, a former Coast Guard base on an island off the southern tip of Manhattan. Totally verboten and off-limits to the public for decades, this tantalizing piece of real estate was donated by the Feds to the City a coupla years ago.

For a brief window of time, before the developers make it some of the most expensive luxury housing ever (my bet) or it becomes a sanitized prefab park, NYCers can bike, hike, and explore this bizarre piece of 1950s manicured Twilight Zone bliss, 15 mins by ferry from Wall Street.

Now open to the public on Sats and Suns, it hosts concerts, walkers, and bikers – and not too many of ’em, either – who wander about the abandoned buildings

And see shows, like the Antibalas one this past Sat. Antibalas, a Bushwick, Brooklyn, collective dedicated to afrobeat, shouts its insurrectionist lyrics over layers of thunderous horns and brass, on top of Cuban rhythms, Yoruba drums, and more. Their name means “bullet-proof” in Spanish. A great band to play at this eeriely peaceful remnant of that least-military of military branches, the Coast Guard,

Brazillian band Ogans started the congas and opened up the show at 1pm,

getting the crowd going with some fairly standard but energetic Brazilian party music,

while the top-billed Antibalas, Bushwick, Brooklyn’s own long-running much-traveled afrobeat collective

played a joyful set to dedicated fans.

Highlights included an excellent “Beaten Metal” off the last album, as well as “I.C.E.”, among their older stuff.

Amayo, on drums and vocals

was as charismatic as ever, the super-political lyrics were as forthright as ever, and despite the shortness of the set (1 hour – better not miss that last 5pm ferry!) the show and the venue were well worth it.

nb: some photos courtesy This Week in New York, twi-ny.com